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#1908370 - 06/04/12 05:58 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: rocket88]
Gary D. Online   content
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: rocket88

The blame there is on the bad teachers, not on Hanon.

I completely agree with you, basically. My transfers students are typically so poorly taught that I often contemplate not taking them any more. It is very frustrating.

Thanks, Rocket. No need to answer you point by point. I don't recall ever disagreeing with you on any important point, and I'm not doing so now.

I would make one little comment re Rachmaninov: we could easily assume that his "powers" as a pianist, which were absolutely awesome, came from something like Hanon. This goes back to "Hanon is a tool".

Another pianist who was known for always warming up with Hanon type things, including great emphasis on scales, was Arrau. I don't think there is any point in disputing his success either!

And finally on the subject of Previn: I said that he is not one of the people who stands out as a virtuoso, but that is not because he was lacking anything, and so my thought might be misinterpreted. I think he was just one of those special musicians who shined so much as an interpreter and creative force that it is hard not to focus on that, the whole package. In the video I linked, and I THINK it was in this thread, he started off joking that Peterson could probably do what he could so, with one hand. I find this kind of humility very typical in extraordinay musicians.

Sorry for the misunderstanding. smile
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#1908379 - 06/04/12 06:04 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Gary D.]
rocket88 Offline
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Originally Posted By: GaryD
I would make one little comment re Rachmaninov: we could easily assume that his "powers" as a pianist, which were absolutely awesome, came from something like Hanon. This goes back to "Hanon is a tool.


I mentioned Rachmaninoff not because Hanon made him what he was. . .not sure about that; Rather that Hanon did not appear to cause him harm.

All the best!

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#1908390 - 06/04/12 06:20 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
keystring Online   content
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Any system, method, or approach is only as good as the teacher and the student practicing. The success probably goes beyond the method. I think that if something is repetitive, and if the person practicing it is wrongly guided or self-guides, there might be harm because a wrong motion done repeatedly will hurt. At the same time, if a right motion is well-guided, then you have a well-practiced set of right motions that will serve you well.

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#1908406 - 06/04/12 07:07 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Online   content
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Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keystring
Any system, method, or approach is only as good as the teacher and the student practicing. The success probably goes beyond the method. I think that if something is repetitive, and if the person practicing it is wrongly guided or self-guides, there might be harm because a wrong motion done repeatedly will hurt.

My only "dog in this fight" is in defense of all the people who are damaged or ruined by poor teaching. The problem with anything repetitive is that NATURE of doing something over and over and over leads to an inevitable conclusion:

BECAUSE of the repetition, wrong practice is deadly. Any kind of repeatedly wrong practice is harmful, so with a wrong general concept applied to all music, something just as deadly happens.

The real issue here is correct teaching, correct guidance.

That said, I suppose the real issue is not really about Hanon but about what happens when it is used wrong. Any teacher can teach the concept of "lift the fingers high" in the wrong way, with deadly results. It is possible that we are making assumptions about what Hanon taught. I think that if Hannon is taught as written but with the technical ideas of Chopin, for a starting point, the result could be 100% positive.

So it ALWAYS ends up about teaching, doesn't it? smile


Edited by Gary D. (06/04/12 07:09 PM)
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#1908470 - 06/04/12 09:23 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: rocket88]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: rocket88
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
And if you think I am exaggerating, then you are one of many who simply can't imagine the extent and dominance of ignorance in this area. I believe Morodiene will back me up here. frown


Well, I have taught in Florida for almost 15 years, (not south Florida) and before that in California and New England, and the ignorance you speak of is not specific to Florida. Bad teaching is everywhere.


I have to say that since moving to S. FL I have seen a lot worse teachers than I have in WI. Perhaps because it's more built-up than WI there's a draw for cheap teachers who don't know what they're doing, I don't know. But I do agree that in the wrong hands, like any tool, it can be dangerous, and in the right hands it can be rewarding.
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#1908534 - 06/05/12 12:19 AM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: rocket88]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5275
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: rocket88
I completely agree with you, basically. My transfers students are typically so poorly taught that I often contemplate not taking them any more. It is very frustrating.

Join the club!

And I'm not the only teacher getting horrid transfers. Two other teachers in my MTAC branch routinely get bad transfers, especially from two local "music schools." One of these students can't even tell what a quarter note is, and she's been playing for two years.

I've been to recitals at these places. It never ceases to surprise me what horrid playing is produced and accepted as "normal."
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#1908537 - 06/05/12 12:24 AM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
Nikolas Offline
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Registered: 11/26/07
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Hanon is boring... Yup... And it's a fine tool to build some techniquie on specific issues.
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#1908796 - 06/05/12 12:30 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
FarmGirl Offline

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Registered: 09/14/10
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Loc: Scottsdale, AZ
I should be working but this thread caught my interest. Well, I will be busy from tomorrow so, hey, what's 5 min here, right.

I took piano total 13 years off and on. 7 years as a child and 3 + 3 years as an adult. Now I am my 4th straight years with my current teacher (my third). I feel like I made visible (audible) progress in the last couple of years. It's not the pieces I play but more in the tones I produce. Many advices I have received since childhood suddenly makes sense now. strange, isn't it? I used lots of method books and technique books like Hanon, little/big pishuna, czerny, etc over the years. I spend about 10 to 15 min a day in techniques. I don't know what worked. But I had an epiphany when i was doing the latter half of Hanon #49. My teacher had me play it slow at first at 84 to an 8th note at p in both legato and staccato. We then slowly increased the tempo to 112. This practice forces your 1-4. 2-4 & 2-5 fingers to stretch a bit. I was working hard to play it as smoothly as I could & as quietly (p) as I could while making all the notes audible. Playing it that way made me feel really good. I enjoyed the feeling of my finger gently pushing the keys and making fast yet mellow run of sounds. Then I thought, " Ahh, this could be what people call playing into the keys". I immediately tried the technique to the third movement of Pathetique I happened to be playing. It worked. What an incredible difference it made. I was having hard time playing it softly, sweetly, without killing the sound. Especially in my left fingers. It requires sensitive touch I did not have. I don't know if the transformation happened at that moment with Hanon but certainly something clicked with it. Just fyi, I used to be known as a "banger" in my family. Give me a Schubert's waltz - I will Rock you like Japanese rice farmers dancing porka (LOL).

I agree with most of you that Hanon or Pishuna by itself won't do much. But teacher's advice is what makes it worthwhile. i am wondering now that my teacher made me do this particular exercise considering the particular challenge included in the piece I was playing. Timing seems to be too good to be unplanned.
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#1908821 - 06/05/12 01:34 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: keystring]
NeilOS Offline
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Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 599
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: keystring
Any system, method, or approach is only as good as the teacher and the student practicing. The success probably goes beyond the method. I think that if something is repetitive, and if the person practicing it is wrongly guided or self-guides, there might be harm because a wrong motion done repeatedly will hurt. At the same time, if a right motion is well-guided, then you have a well-practiced set of right motions that will serve you well.


You are right. But just as the success goes beyond the method, so too do the failures. By failures I mean conceptual misunderstandings. Perhaps this is what you mean by practicing "wrongly." But it's more than practicing wrongly. (Please don't think I'm just being argumentative here. I'm genuinely concerned about this issue.)

The concept inherent in exercises in general is that repetition of note patterns will create strong fingers or independent fingers or that these patterns will occur in the same way in music. These ideas date from the 1880's and have their origins in the experience of keyboard players who were steeped in harpsichord techniques. I believe Czerny and Hanon and the others were probably sincere, although I don't completely discount the notion that money was to be made off of the burgeoning piano market. When Hanon, for example, was popular and adopted by so many institutions, Matthay had not yet written about the use of the forearm. Keyboard players thought primarily about lifting fingers, despite Schumann's unfortunate experience. (Google Landowska's photo of her claw-like hands.)

If you discard Hanon's "instructions," as I believe all pianists should, the exercises can be used to show how patterns can be grouped together for technical ease, how to shape. But I learned these techniques in a Mozart sonata (K. 333). If you don't believe in lifting the fingers away from the hand (as he instructs) or training for strength and therefore using repetition for endurance (wrong concepts), then I implore you to ask yourself what specifically you hope to gain by practicing Hanon.

Let me be clear: I don't think the exercises themselves are "dangerous" and carcinogenic (LOL) but the underlying concepts that students take away are not in sync with a system of playing that uses the body efficiently, the way it was designed to be used. Students invariably take away the idea that repetition of patterns is the key to success, when the "working-in" of specific, local and correct physical movements is the key to success. By "local" I mean "what do the finger, hand, arm do in this spot to get easily and efficiently from here to there?" This, of course, requires knowledge of the working mechanism (but one doesn't have to be a doctor). When students focus on the repetition of patterns, the danger that mindless rote will take over is considerable. (Perhaps this too is what you mean by practicing "wrongly.")

It is possible to play the piano with great success using many different points of view, or from no point of view at all. I choose to use a specific physical approach that allows my hands to be used according to their design. The fingers are strong and sound independent if the forearm is allowed to play its part, and there is nothing wrong with the 4th finger, just in case anyone was wondering.


Edited by NeilOS (06/05/12 01:55 PM)
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#1908850 - 06/05/12 02:17 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: NeilOS]
Gary D. Online   content
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Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: NeilOS

Keyboard players thought primarily about lifting fingers, despite Schumann's unfortunate experience. (Google Landowska's photo of her claw-like hands.)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw3FstKlse0

Landowska would have been about 75 in this. It is totally unfair and misleading to use a photo to give an idea of how someone played, or how that person used the hands.

I would, instead, consider the longevity of the performer along with the playing. Landowska was a tiny person, and she lived to the age of around 80, I think.

Examining this video, I see unusually curved or "curled" fingers, but I see and hear nothing that tells me that what she did was either unnatural or limiting - for her. You can actually see the involvement of the forearm, and there is a lot to like from what I see. And everything to like, from what I hear!

Now, having said, her use of fingers is almost exactly the opposite of what I teach. smile

It is interesting to compare her playing late in life to that of Horowitz's.


Edited by Gary D. (06/05/12 02:19 PM)
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#1908858 - 06/05/12 02:33 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Gary D.]
NeilOS Offline
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Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 599
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: NeilOS

Keyboard players thought primarily about lifting fingers, despite Schumann's unfortunate experience. (Google Landowska's photo of her claw-like hands.)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw3FstKlse0

Landowska would have been about 75 in this. It is totally unfair and misleading to use a photo to give an idea of how someone played, or how that person used the hands.

I would, instead, consider the longevity of the performer along with the playing. Landowska was a tiny person, and she lived to the age of around 80, I think.

Examining this video, I see unusually curved or "curled" fingers, but I see and hear nothing that tells me that what she did was either unnatural or limiting - for her. You can actually see the involvement of the forearm, and there is a lot to like from what I see. And everything to like, from what I hear!

Now, having said, her use of fingers is almost exactly the opposite of what I teach. smile

It is interesting to compare her playing late in life to that of Horowitz's.


It's impossible to play a keyboard instrument without using forearm rotation. Understanding it's use is another matter.

As for the photo, well it was meant to illustrate the opposite of what the hand should look like. She was a wonderful artist; I studied baroque interpretation with one of her students. Do we know if her hand felt the way it looked? I wonder...


Edited by NeilOS (06/05/12 04:23 PM)
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#1908874 - 06/05/12 03:04 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: NeilOS]
Gary D. Online   content
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: NeilOS
[/quote]
It's impossible to play a keyboard instrument without using the forearm. Understanding it's use is another matter.

This is for another time, but I am convinced that people are taught "out of" doing what is natural, at least in many cases. Think only of the old "balance a coin on the hand while playing" idea. How WRONG can any concept be? frown
Quote:

As for the photo, well it was meant to illustrate the opposite of what the hand should look like. She was a wonderful artist; I studied baroque interpretation with one of her students. Do we know if her hand felt the way it looked? I wonder...

Did you watch the video? Normally such severe curvature would give me a tense feeling. For instance, when I watch Gould play, it makes me feel uncomfortable. Solokov is another who makes me cringe. I love his playing, but the way he achieves it makes me feel very uncomfortable.

But I did not get that feeling with Landowska. She looked utterly at ease, totally natural. And again, she was about 75. Her BODY did not look 75. If she taught as well as she played, I would wager that her students did not necessarily play as she did. No good teacher fails to take into account individual differences in body and hand.
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#1908886 - 06/05/12 03:29 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: NeilOS]
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
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Originally Posted By: NeilOS

It's impossible to play a keyboard instrument without using the forearm. Understanding it's use is another matter.

It is quite possible for someone who doesn't know what he is doing and has a poor understanding of the body (or is afraid to use it) to do weird stuff. If you don't have a competent teacher to observe and guide you, and especially if you are self-taught, then if you do weird stuff while playing varied things you may get into some poor habits and maybe injure yourself a little bit. But if you do an exercise where you are repeating the same motions over and over, the risk of injury or at least quite ingrained habits is much greater. I am writing as a student and have a t-shirt to sell. I LOVE repetitive exercises when there is something that I want to get solid by doing it over and over, provided that I'm not doing something freakish without knowing it. I know it does not have to be perfect, but if it is off track and going in the direction of harmful, I want to be redirected. While I was forced to work on my own I stayed away from repetitive things for that reason.

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#1908890 - 06/05/12 03:38 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
slipperykeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/03/12
Posts: 341
Loc: Dorset, England
I have only today re-read the first two sentences of his preface.

The first is arguable, the second extreme and inaccurate, IMO, perhaps it was right in his day but he seems a bit tough. I can imagine many a frail young thing leaving his house in floods of tears after another difficult and unhappy lesson, I hope I am wrong.

I personally am a huge fan of his exercises, but my goodness, he held some fairly unusual views!

I will also add that I never find the exercises boring because I vary notes to emphasise and speeds and so on.

I have never yet played one exercise to my satisfaction.

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#1908894 - 06/05/12 03:43 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: NeilOS]
LadyChen Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/25/12
Posts: 521
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: NeilOS

If you discard Hanon's "instructions," as I believe all pianists should, the exercises can be used to show how patterns can be grouped together for technical ease, how to shape. But I learned these techniques in a Mozart sonata (K. 333). If you don't believe in lifting the fingers away from the hand (as he instructs) or training for strength and therefore using repetition for endurance (wrong concepts), then I implore you to ask yourself what specifically you hope to gain by practicing Hanon.


I've been using Hanon exercises in my own practicing for the last 6 months, and I have definitely noticed an improvement in my technique, however I suspect, as you mention, I could have had the same (or better) results by spending that 30 min a day playing Mozart or Haydn sonatas!

I've always had a lot of tension in my ulnar nerve, which creates that "british pinky" sticking up in the air when I'm not relaxed. I use Hanon to concentrate on staying relaxed while playing quick passages. Sometimes I have to slow it right down before my pinky finger can relax, and then I will speed it back up again.

I can do the same type of practicing with my sonatas (and I do), but I have to admit that sometimes it's nice to just be brainless and play Hanon.

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#1908919 - 06/05/12 04:37 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: NeilOS]
NeilOS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 599
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: NeilOS
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: NeilOS

Keyboard players thought primarily about lifting fingers, despite Schumann's unfortunate experience. (Google Landowska's photo of her claw-like hands.)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw3FstKlse0

Landowska would have been about 75 in this. It is totally unfair and misleading to use a photo to give an idea of how someone played, or how that person used the hands.

I would, instead, consider the longevity of the performer along with the playing. Landowska was a tiny person, and she lived to the age of around 80, I think.

Examining this video, I see unusually curved or "curled" fingers, but I see and hear nothing that tells me that what she did was either unnatural or limiting - for her. You can actually see the involvement of the forearm, and there is a lot to like from what I see. And everything to like, from what I hear!

Now, having said, her use of fingers is almost exactly the opposite of what I teach. smile

It is interesting to compare her playing late in life to that of Horowitz's.


It's impossible to play a keyboard instrument without using forearm rotation. Understanding it's use is another matter.

As for the photo, well it was meant to illustrate the opposite of what the hand should look like. She was a wonderful artist; I studied baroque interpretation with one of her students. Do we know if her hand felt the way it looked? I wonder...


Yes, I've seen L. play. It makes my hands ache. Notice how she pulls her fingers up and away from the keyboard and holds them there. This takes considerable effort, an effort that works against her intention, which is to put the key down. "Dear, my teacher would say, the piano is down. We only go up in order to come down." I suspect this approach comes from playing the old harpsichords with the shortened key, requiring the fingers to be curved in order to avoid the "black" keys. But her music making is exemplary.

You are right about students being unwittingly misguided. Given half a chance, the body will choose a natural movement over an unnatural one. Stretching and pulling to extremes are not natural in piano playing.


Edited by NeilOS (06/05/12 04:42 PM)
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#1910004 - 06/07/12 01:04 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
April's Piano St. Offline
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Registered: 01/31/11
Posts: 27
Loc: Denton, Texas
I agree that Hanon is an extremely useful tool when use properly. My university piano professor had me used Hanon to focus on developing knuckle support. These exercises are the perfect repetition to be able to play something and yet not have to worry about what notes are coming, thus leaving the performer with the ability to focus on knuckle support! I went from collapsing knuckles to almost perfect knuckle support when I played. smile

Use it for specific purposes and they will prove to be worthwhile.
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#1911321 - 06/10/12 08:02 AM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
Ben Crosland Offline
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Registered: 03/11/10
Posts: 417
Loc: Worcester, UK
"Ask not what Hanon can do for you, but what you can do with Hanon."

Or something.

I had a thought on this subject the other day, when teaching a recent late-intermediate transfer student. I had avoided using Hanon with him, so far, because he came to me already suffering with some RSI. Now he has settled down, I showed him the first couple of exercises, and we both agreed that they could be tremendously useful to him, so long as he is careful.

I came to the conclusion that the question isn't so much "Should I do Hanon's exercises?" but rather "Can I play Hanon's exercises properly, and if not, why not?".

I don't mean the entire set, either - even No.1 is incredibly revealing of fundamental technique. The point being, that any student of this level *ought* to be able to play the first exercise at a decent, even tempo, with good hand-shape and posture, consistent tone, clean legato and good L/R coordination. If they can't, then there is good reason to practise said exercise until they can, IMO.



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#1913130 - 06/13/12 09:23 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Ben Crosland]
NeilOS Offline
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Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 599
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: Ben Crosland
"Ask not what Hanon can do for you, but what you can do with Hanon."

Or something.

I had a thought on this subject the other day, when teaching a recent late-intermediate transfer student. I had avoided using Hanon with him, so far, because he came to me already suffering with some RSI. Now he has settled down, I showed him the first couple of exercises, and we both agreed that they could be tremendously useful to him, so long as he is careful.

I came to the conclusion that the question isn't so much "Should I do Hanon's exercises?" but rather "Can I play Hanon's exercises properly, and if not, why not?".

I don't mean the entire set, either - even No.1 is incredibly revealing of fundamental technique. The point being, that any student of this level *ought* to be able to play the first exercise at a decent, even tempo, with good hand-shape and posture, consistent tone, clean legato and good L/R coordination. If they can't, then there is good reason to practise said exercise until they can, IMO.





Okay, I'll bite. What will the student have accomplished when he/she's perfected the exercise that he couldn't have accomplished in repertoire, say Mozart K. 284, mm 7-8, for example?
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#1913152 - 06/13/12 10:41 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I find that Hanon is useful because the student doesn't have to concentrate on reading or rhythm. They memorize the exercise and can be fully attentive to the technical gesture they are trying to learn -- what it looks like, what it feels like. It becomes automatic more quickly and can, therefore, be applied in the repertoire more efficiently.

There are so many other considerations when you are working with repertoire. I use Hanon primarily with transfer students who have had inadequate technical instruction. I don't use it at all with students who begin with me because I build in those gestures right from the start.
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#1913174 - 06/13/12 11:23 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Minniemay]
rocket88 Offline
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Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I find that Hanon is useful because the student doesn't have to concentrate on reading or rhythm. They memorize the exercise and can be fully attentive to the technical gesture they are trying to learn -- what it looks like, what it feels like.


Nicely put. I use it for the same purpose...especially with brand new students who stumble trying to remember the fingering for a scale, and are absolutely nowhere near able to play an etude or repertoire for technique improvement.
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#1913256 - 06/14/12 02:57 AM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
Ben Crosland Offline
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Registered: 03/11/10
Posts: 417
Loc: Worcester, UK
@NeilOS

Nothing to add to what Minniemay and rocket88 have so eloquently put, as they both echo my exact thoughts on the subject.
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#1913449 - 06/14/12 12:39 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4393
Loc: San Jose, CA
My neck is taking sore, as I watch, once again, as the ping pong ball is batted furiously from one side of the Hanon table to the other. Talk about a way to acquire an RSI! And for what.

Most of the assertions taken up really could, legitimately, be argued on either side except for the screaming caution to ignore the nonsense about 'lifting the fingers high,' for that is outmoded and outright dangerous. I could chime in on some aspects, but I don't know that the topic needs a couple more pages.

Well... maybe, about strength and endurance. The finger and arms, you know, are not the only muscles put in play, by play. Or playing; practicing. Think of the spine, the shoulders, the belly, the neck, the legs, the butt. Where would we be as performers without them! And the brain--- it tires from use, and from concentration; it acquires stamina from exercise.

The book(s) go(es) beyond mere finger exercises. The author--- actually, as far as I can make out, Hanon was as much a compiler of already-existing technical drills as a composer of them--- specifically recommended the book for people who have been away from the piano for awhile, or for people who have lacked breadth and wish to advance in technique. Taking it for a whole lifetime would be like eating spinach three meals a day for life. As good for us as it might be...
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#1913535 - 06/14/12 04:40 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
kspriggs Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/08/12
Posts: 26
Do the first twenty of Hanon and then move onto Dohnanyi. That built up my piano muscles fast!

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#1913540 - 06/14/12 04:44 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Rodrigo V.]
kspriggs Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/08/12
Posts: 26
Dinu Lipati could get kicked in the groin, blindfolded, and then drink half a bottle of tequila and.....

He would still wipe Lisitsa, Previn, Arrau and all those guys off the keyboard!

So would Art Tatum!

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#1914035 - 06/15/12 01:03 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: kspriggs]
NeilOS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 599
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: kspriggs
Do the first twenty of Hanon and then move onto Dohnanyi. That built up my piano muscles fast!


Or, as in the case of Dohnanyi, ripped the muscles right out of your hands.
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Concert Pianist, University Professor, Private Teacher in Los Angeles
Blog: http://www.pianoteacherlosangeles.com/

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#1914056 - 06/15/12 01:30 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Minniemay]
NeilOS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 599
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I find that Hanon is useful because the student doesn't have to concentrate on reading or rhythm. They memorize the exercise and can be fully attentive to the technical gesture they are trying to learn -- what it looks like, what it feels like. It becomes automatic more quickly and can, therefore, be applied in the repertoire more efficiently.

There are so many other considerations when you are working with repertoire. I use Hanon primarily with transfer students who have had inadequate technical instruction. I don't use it at all with students who begin with me because I build in those gestures right from the start.


Can you describe the technical gestures they are trying to learn? What do you tell them if they can't play the exercise the way you think it should be played? Do you tell them to keep practicing until they get it or can you show them the techniques they need? If you can show them the techniques here, then why not in music? Are you saying they couldn't quickly memorize 2 measures in a Mozart sonata that contains a similar passage (K. 284)? I don't mean to sound critical and you don't need to answer these questions for me, only for yourself. If you're satisfied with what you are doing and don't want to look further, so be it.

Figures similar to those in Hanon occur very rarely in piano solo repertoire. That is, figures with parallel patterns. Of course, the shapes occur often in separate hands and can be taught that way. I learned about shaping, for example, in K. 333 when I was already advanced. But students can learn this in preparatory pieces, too. I sometimes copy the few measures that I want the student to focus on, showing them what the techniques are and how to practice them. (The parallel figures similar to those found in Hanon can appear sometimes in concertos and collaborative sonatas, particularly Beethoven "Spring" and the C minor violin sonatas, the Trout Quintet and other chamber works. )

I fear that teaching Hanon as you describe is an avoidance technique. Unless you feel that Hanon is needed for strength training or endurance (I hope not), then I urge you to think through your approach in more detail. It's hard for me to justify spending precious time learning X, when what I want to play is Y. Student practice time is limited.


Edited by NeilOS (06/15/12 02:37 PM)
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Blog: http://www.pianoteacherlosangeles.com/

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#1914131 - 06/15/12 04:13 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: NeilOS]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: NeilOS
Can you describe the technical gestures they are trying to learn?


Rotation, circular wrist motions, efficiency of movement, alignment

Quote:
What do you tell them if they can't play the exercise the way you think it should be played? Do you tell them to keep practicing until they get it or can you show them the techniques they need?


I've never had the experience where the student, after me demonstrating the gesture, could not reproduce it. The exercise, when they follow through on it, becomes a reflexive action. Some repetition is necessary.

Quote:
If you can show them the techniques here, then why not in music? Are you saying they couldn't quickly memorize 2 measures in a Mozart sonata that contains a similar passage (K. 284)?


Of course they could, but Hanon is simpler. I generally teach it by rote. I don't have to pull out a score and it keeps the focus better. I have taught and still do teach technique right in the repertoire, but I find Hanon to be a real shortcut.


Quote:
Figures similar to those in Hanon occur very rarely in piano solo repertoire.


Neither do scales, at least the way most of us teach them, but we still teach them.

I'm teaching the principles of gesture that go beyond any one specific piece of repertoire.


Quote:
I fear that teaching Hanon as you describe is an avoidance technique.


I happen to find it more direct and universally applicable. I've been using it for almost 30 years and have great success.
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#1914176 - 06/15/12 05:34 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Minniemay

I've never had the experience where the student, after me demonstrating the gesture, could not reproduce it. The exercise, when they follow through on it, becomes a reflexive action. Some repetition is necessary.

This is important. I can see about a zillion wrong assumptions being made here. I can't see what you teach, and you can't see what I teach. The demonstration factor is HUGE. So much of what we see as we learn to play efficiently comes from what our teachers show us, and I continue to stress that much of it is non-verbal and intuitive.

We SHOULD assume that the teachers we talk to are teaching efficient, practical things that work until somehow it becomes crystal clear that something is wrong.

If anyone insists, for instance, on playing patterns and scales with a coin balanced on the top of the and, my assumption is that great damage is being done. But other than seeing something that is obviously so wrong, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Here is just one example that will not come across in words:

It is my natural way of playing to use a minimum of movement. I would use Rubenstein as a model of this, in his later years. But when students are stiff, I recommend to them to MOVE in ways that are simply not necessary for me, and if those movements result in their playing in a more relaxed way, lead to greater facility, more control, etc., that's the right thing to do.

I don't know why this thread is still alive. I don't like Hanon. I will probably never teach it (the exercises), but to then go to the next level and say that Hanon is not a good thing when taught in a different way by other teachers is close-minded, arrogant and rigid.

Hanon is a tool. Why shouldn't we all assume that you use this tool wisely? smile


Edited by Gary D. (06/15/12 05:35 PM)
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#1914187 - 06/15/12 05:43 PM Re: HANON exercises is a waste of time...? [Re: NeilOS]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: NeilOS


Can you describe the technical gestures they are trying to learn? What do you tell them if they can't play the exercise the way you think it should be played? Do you tell them to keep practicing until they get it or can you show them the techniques they need? If you can show them the techniques here, then why not in music? Are you saying they couldn't quickly memorize 2 measures in a Mozart sonata that contains a similar passage (K. 284)? I don't mean to sound critical and you don't need to answer these questions for me, only for yourself. If you're satisfied with what you are doing and don't want to look further, so be it.

I teach more like you, most likely, than like Minniemay. But the tone of your post is that MM is satisfied with what she is doing and does not want to look further.

That may be accurate, or it may be totally unfair. Instead of telling other people why what they are doing is wrong, or may be wrong, or is less good than what you believe to be a better way, why not just describe what you do?

And I may need to be careful about that too - I can get rather argumentative on bad days when I am working hard to make a point.

My own idea, which I think is similar to yours: for every instance where both hands play scales, four octaves, or even a couple, as they are presented in traditional teaching, is relatively rare.

On one hand we can mention the nasty scale section of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto right before the end of the last movement, but then we run into the chicken/egg question: practice scales for years to play such passages? Or study such passages as their OWN self-teaching exercises?

In general I stress hands separate practice of scale patterns for the simple reason that - as you mentioned - both hands are so often called upon to play different patterns. smile


Edited by Gary D. (06/15/12 05:44 PM)
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